How an Indian-origin driver is helping homeless Canadians in sub-zero temperatures


TORONTO: An Indo-Canadian driver has been providing critical shuttle services to people seeking shelter in sub-zero temperatures in the country’s British Columbia province.

Upkar Singh Tatlay, executive director of the Engaged Communities Canada Society, is up before dawn to drive community members with no home of their own to a warming centre in a white multi-passenger van.

“There are so many people that need assistance,” Tatlay, who makes multiple trips transporting people from the end of November through March, told CBC news channel.

Knowing well that being exposed to bitter cold can be life-threatening, Tatlay picks unhoused people from an overnight shelter in Surrey to drop them at the Society’s Daytime Warming Centre in the neighbouring city of White Rock.

Upkar Singh Tatlay,
Upkar Singh Tatlay

While overnight shelter is available at the South Surrey Recreation Centre, users have to vacate it before 6.30 a.m.

Tatlay then transports these people to the centre, which is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. at North Bluff Road and is funded by the city and public donations.

“People are sleeping in really difficult situations so we are always trying to find out where they are,” he told CBC, adding that he also keeps an eye for those in need of shelter services.

“We see seniors, we see people that have been discharged from the hospital, we see people who are renovicted… a lot of folks who actually have really good jobs but they just don’t compare to the astronomical rents, cost of living (and) food,” Tatlay said.

When Tatlay arrives with his first batch, they are welcomed by volunteers serving croissants and coffee.

In addition, they have access to mental health and medical resources at the centre and are also provided warm clothing and blankets.

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